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Computer aided NURBS


I’ve been looking at this thread long enough and feel compelled
to ask a question I’ve been holding onto because I thought I must
be missing something here. Maybe I am still missing something,
but I’m now ready to play the fool.

As a designer/manufacturer/tool freak extraordinaire, I’m always
on the lookout for anything to help produce my designs better and
faster. I haven’t spared any expense yet for this quest (my poor
wife), but on the issue of CAD, it seems totally overated and the
only place I can see its usefulness in the jewelry industry
(unless one must have every single tool for even the slightest
gain) is in the hands of knock-off manufacturers who either take
the hottest selling item in the major department stores and scan
it and make the 15% difference to avoid copyright infringement or
those who have a special relationship to computers who feel freer
in cyberspace than with pencil to paper.

Jewelry design and manufacture is not rocket science, and it
isn’t even close to the auto industry unless one is basing their
comparison on the fact that both are made in metal (My arrogance
and blissful ignorance is starting to flow unimpeded by my former
temperance now that I’m in deep water and feel the imminent
shark attack). And if we’re going to compare automobiles and
jewelry, then let’s look at automobiles preached and postcard. I
don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll take a preached Truant over
a postcard Chevrolet design-wise any day. When was the last time
you looked at a modern car and drooled like we do for the old
T-Bird or any other oldie?

For me, “Good Design” is good design, period. No amount of
technical wizardry is going to make up for lack of design
aesthetic. When I thought I could be the Big Rock Star, I bought
all the latest technology and spent all my time and money, and 10
years later, I realized if it didn’t sound good on acoustic
guitar and raw vocals, no amount of fluff technology was going to
make it sound better. A bad written song is a bad written song.
And music is like any form of art. It’s created in the mind. And
yes, tools are helpful – like a spoon is helpful to get the soup
into your mouth (but I’d rather eat good soup with no spoon than
shovel in the c**p that is being fed to the masses via
corporations bent on profit margins. Let’s all go have our Van
Gough posters framed in gilt platinum).

And when it comes to making a model, I feel confident enough to
say that I can beat any CAD/CAM program when it comes to speed for
designing and making models of my work, not even knowing a thing
about CAD/CAM. I challenge any program to beat me to the finished
model from design to model in hand.

So here’s my question: Can someone please tell me how CAD is
going to revolutionize the Jewelry Industry, other than the
aforementioned mass manufacturers or the diligent salesperson
trying to hook the customer with a neat 3-D image of that dazzling
engagement ring (which probably looks just like the engagement
ring sitting in every other jewelry store window) that was custom
made for her?

My hairs on fire, Gotta get some water, Peter Slone


Peter, I couldn’t agree more on most of your points. Regarding
knock-offs, CAD buys you nothing because you can’t efficiently
scan in a 3D model to get the detail.

However a simple example of the technology. If you designed a
brooch with CAD, you could supply matching earrings without ever
seeing that brooch. You could also design something, view it,
and then even build it by hand. Many companies do this today.
You don’t have to build it on a machine.

The jewelry industry is not automotive or aerospace, it is far
closer to art than anything else.

If you have an opportunity, come to MJSA in NY from March 28 -
30 at the Pier. We’re in the Gesswein Booth.



Rolf, you can fully 3D scan anything to perfection, we currently
supply this service to an several artists now. They are very
please with the scans and our ability to supply the jewelry
models made from the scan data and produced by our sanders

Keep it up!!!




Did you see what Durand from Tahiti said about Jewelcad and the
Sanders machine. In fact better yet what he had to say about the
3d SLA machine. Finally someone said something really positive
about both. I’ve been trying.



Dear Peter,

Having just completed an article on computers in the jewelry
industry for AJM, I couldn’t resist responding to your post.

At first, computers may make more of a difference in the sales
end and in large-scale manufacturing than in small-shop design. I
don’t think you can underestimate the potential impact of being
able to show the customer “her” design. Although I and most of
the jewelers I know are highly visual people, many, many people
are not. My mother, for example, can never “imagine” what
something will look like from a description. If you want to sell
her a custom piece of jewelry, the more “real” you can make the
image – something computers excel at – the better your odds of
making the sale.

In addition, CAD/CAM shines in large-scale manufacturing. One of
the earliest uses was in the creation of tools and dies for
stamping operations. If you use a tool a lot, sooner or later
it’s going to wear out or break. Using traditional methods, you
have to start from scratch and make all new tools, because you
could never precisely replicate the broken part. With CAD/CAM,
you can make a new part that matches the old to thousandths of an

Large-scale manufacturing also tends to call for lots of
replication: creating a pendant, then a matching set of earrings,
then a bracelet. Once again, CAD/CAM is great for this: create
the pendant design, then create the rest of the set in just a
minute or so. When you’re doing large volumes of things, those
minutes add up to major increases in productivity and big
reductions in manufacturing costs.

All that said, I have to admit that CAD/CAM probably won’t
"revolutionize" the way one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted jewelry is
made – at least not right away. This is, as others have pointed
out, an art. But then, there was also a time when I would have
said that computers wouldn’t make any difference in my art –
writing – either. After all, whether you use a computer or you
use pen and paper, the process is the same, right? Wrong. I write
differently now because I use the computer. I can write a
sentence, change it, change it again, go on and write another
dozen paragraphs, get a great idea and go back and rewrite the
first sentence another time. Then maybe I’ll refine it, tweak it,
and polish it. Could I have done this with pen and paper? Sure,
but I’d have ended up with so many scribbles and crossed out
sections I wouldn’t have been able to read it. (I know this for a
fact: I have several short stories I wrote in my pre-computer
days that are undiscipherable.) And when I’m done, there’s no
more laborious, time-consuming retyping. I hit print and it’s
done. (Or these days, I attach to an e-mail and send to my

Did the computer “revolutionize” the way I write? It depends
what you mean. Did it dramatically alter the final product? Nope.
But did it change the way I create the product? Absolutely. I
think my writing is more polished now, and there’s certainly less
"grunt" work. Could I still use pen and pencil and get good
results? Sure. But I’d far rather use the computer. Perhaps with
time and familiarity, jewelry artists will feel the same way.

Suzanne Wade


Hi Suzanne, your article in AJM ( yep, I’m a happy susbscriber)
regarding CAD/CAM was part of the fuel for my previous tirade on
this subject. [And in case anyone wondered what the hell was the
meaning of " I’d take a preached truant over a post card Chevy
any day" … Well folks… serves me right for using
that spell check on Netscape… It was actually supposed to read “
I’d take a pre CAD Trabbant over a post CAD Chevy any day”] I
just think this whole issue with CAD/CAM is, for the most part,
limited to large manufacturers(of which I’m guessing happens to
be many of your subscribers) .And as I stated earlier, can be
very beneficial in that arena. So when I read your article I
don’t see that distinction being made . What I do read is that
CAD/CAM is coming down the mountain and going to roll over all
of us, whether were ready or not, in the near future and that
those of us who are not up on this new technology will be
squished; Most of which sounds like a sales pitch to me and this
is why I rebel . All I read is how CAD/CAM is so great and
mighty (as soon as one goes beyond the learning curve) and I feel
compelled to challenge this idea in the specific area of
design----probably because I really can’t afford this toy and I’m
afraid I will become a dinosaur with his pencil and paper.

Comparing the act of writing to designing a piece of jewelry and
how they relate to computers, in my opinion, is non sequitor. It
gets me wondering how much designing you have done because I do
not see the slightest advantage in using a computer to help me
design or make a model.

Without computers you and I would not be having this
communication. I can appreciate the need here. And in writing an
article a computer is great for manipulating words, sentence
structure etc. But the actual movement of formulating thoughts,
which is what words on the page are, has nothing to do with
computers. The same goes for music- Computers have definitely
made their mark here in certain ways; We can now listen to Mozart
on a synthethizer. But do you think Mozart would have written
better music with a computer? How about Renoir? Computers are
the bane to many areas of human endeavor and to art in
particular. We are giving our power of creativeness over to the
"power" of Mac or Microsoft. We buy more toys, more tools, all in
the name of enhancing our creative power and in the process give
it away and instead become proficiant operators in Coral,
Jewelcad etc, and are able to manipulate other peoples ideas, no
longer having any of our own. For me, the learning curve
associated with CAD/CAM has got to be one of the best excuses
of procrastination* for any would be Artist. What better
procrastination can someone have than to take on the prestigious,
momentous task and financial ( money is time) outlay of learning
CAD/CAM than to do the unthinkable- create your own designs and
put them on a public shelf for sale?

So yes, I agree that CAD/CAM is going to make some people a lot
of money. But how this is going to improve art on a daily human
level nobody has told me yet.

                                            All in the name of fun,  Peter


  • Andy Cooperman wrote a great article on procrastination . Andy, why don’t you post
    it on Orchid?


While CAD CAM may make some of you nervous and may interest some
others; whether a tool rests in your hand or is connected to a
computer; the piece that is created from your efforts still
requires skill, technical knowledge, and creativity.

That said, I just got orders for 17 models from samples that
were output on my new CNC mill. I have had the system for less
than a month. The machine does not replace the 30 years of
experience that I have gained carving wax, fabricating metal
parts and selling my jewelry (hmm, I do wish it could get out on
the sales floor…) but simply makes some projects much easier.
It is just another tool. It doesn’t do granulation.

I remember Martin Mull playing songs on a plastic Mickey Mouse
guitar on some TV show years ago. A cheap tool in the hands of
a master.

Rick Hamilton


So yes, I agree that CAD/CAM is going to make some people a lot
of money. But how this is going to improve art on a daily human
level nobody has told me yet.

It can’t, no more than a paint brush can. I’m no artist, but for
me the attraction of CAD/CAM is to do things that can’t be done
any other way. For instance, milling a mold for plastic injection
with a level of detail that can’t be done by hand. Not art, but
it pays the bills!

Brett Gober
Freedom Design & Contracting


Dear Peter,

I’m happy you found the article in AJM so thought-provoking.
Your point is well-taken, and you’re right: a lot of people are
making CAD/CAM sound like something you absolutely have to have
right now if you’re going to be competitive – no matter what
your size. I think it may be the case right now if you’re a large
manufacturer. It may never be the case for small-scale designers.
If you’re a small shop and you’re not excited by the technology,
I see no real reason for you to rush out and invest in it. I
shouldn’t imagine you’ll become a dinosaur if you’re currently
creating one-of-a-kind pieces profitably with pencil and paper.

But if you are interested by computers and look forward to
learning about CAD/CAM, I think it can allow you to be creative
in a different way. And for the generation behind me, who have
used computers since toddlerhood, I think CAD/CAM will be the
most natural way in the world to design – perhaps even more
intuitive than pen and paper. For the sake of those people, I
feel the need to defend CAD from traditionalists who feel the
computer somehow compromises creativity.

Computers are just a tool. You can use a pencil to copy other
people’s ideas too – and people have for hundreds of years. (I
understand there was at one time quite a good living to be had by
painting copies of famous paintings – before photography made
that skill obsolete.) Would Mozart have created better music with
a computer? An interesting question: what would Mozart have done
with the nearly infinite possibilities permitted by the computer?
He showed such genious with the instruments available to him,
I’d love to see what he’d do with computer synthesis. And what
would he have done with today’s software that lets you hear the
music as it would sound played by a full orchestra – as you
write it? The thing is, we can’t know. Keep in mind, Mozart was
the pop music of his day. There was just as much lousy music
being written then as there is today. What will the future say
about our pop music artists who are using computers to create
new sounds – once the lousy stuff has been weeded out by time?

As for my comparing designing to writing, perhaps you’re right
and the two have absolutely nothing in common. But writing is a
creative act, just as designing is, so I thought my observations
on how the tool (computers) has altered my approach to the
creative act was relevant. My thought was just that the ability
to alter and tweak a design in CAD is very much like the ability
to alter and tweak the words on the page – and that ability
has changed the way I think when I’m writing. I apologize if I
bored you and others on the list.

Thank you for encouraging a lively debate on this topic. I’m
looking forward to the other comments.